On Sunday January, 17th we will see perhaps the most technical title fight in the short history of the UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole. UFC Fight Night: Boston will host the long awaited battle between the two premier bantamweights as current champion T.J. Dillashaw takes on former champion Dominick Cruz. Co-headlined by a lightweight showdown between former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and the always fun Eddie Alvarez, Sunday is sure to be a card we will not soon forget, and considering the UFC threw us some bones and put it on free television, you definitely don’t want to miss it.
Champion TJ Dillashaw vs #1 Dominick Cruz
Preview: I wish there was a way for this to be labeled a champion vs champion fight, because that’s essentially what this is. Neither fighter has been defeated when defending his belt, and neither thinks Sunday will be their time to fall. Former champion Dominick Cruz enters the bout on an eleven fight win streak dating back to 2007. Cruz has rebounded from a slew of injuries that forced him to relinquish his belt just before his unification bout with Renan Barao in early 2014. “The Dominator” was on a tear, beating every top contender of the time, opponents such as former champion Urijah Faber and current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Most recently he dismantled a tough Takeya Mizugaki in just over a minute at UFC 178.
Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw burst onto the scene at UFC 173 when he dominated Renan Barao for what seemed like an eternity before TKOing him halfway through the fifth and final round, thus completing what some say was the biggest upset in UFC championship history (this was, of course, before Holly Holm knocked out Ronda Rousey). TJ was easily an 8 to 1 underdog, but that night he looked like not only the better fighter, but in a league of his own. TJ has since defended his belt twice once against Joe Soto and once in a rematch with Barao.
To make things even better, there’s no love lost between the two bantamweight kingpins. Cruz has had a longstanding beef with Dillashaw’s former camp, repeatedly bashing all things Team Alpha Male with insults and gestures, at first aimed at its founder, Urijah Faber. Faber and Dillashaw seemed to be inseparable for the first part of the champion’s career, as Team Alpha Male seemed destined to always be title challengers but never champions. This, of course, changed when TJ won his belt. Dillashaw and Faber have recently had a falling out, however, and Dillashaw has been banned from the camp. This move did nothing but add more fuel to Cruz’s trash talking fire. Will being banned from Team Alpha Male affect Dillashaw’s performance?
Prediction: Stylistically, this is a fight for the ages. Dillashaw enters with a more traditional style using his jab and head movement as his key to success. Mix in his brilliant feints, and even those watching on TV cant tell what he’s about to throw next. Cruz, on the other hand, is all about movement. He’s in and he’s out. He throws and then gets out of harms way. Which can be extremely difficult for opponents, because timing is so important. Cruz’s unorthodox movements can be at times hard to follow for the viewer, but there’s a method behind the madness. Finding Cruz has been an impossible task for just about everyone, as “The Dominator” has been hit less than any other UFC bantamweight.
On the mat both are pretty well rounded, each with a wrestling background. Dillashaw began on the Ultimate Fighter as almost a pure wrestler, and his classic double-legs come off his striking exchanges as he has his opponents moving backwards. Cruz, on the other hand, gets his takedowns more from the clinch when his opponent is pressing forward and overextending. Both have capable ground and pound, enough to soften the other up and potentially steal a round. Neither fighter, however, is known for their submission skills, but both are capable if the opportunity arises.
My pick: The Dominator continues to dominate. Cruz by lopsided unanimous decision.
Other Main Card Picks:
#1 Anthony Pettis vs #4 Eddie Alvarez
Pettis by submission
#6 Travis Browne vs #14 Matt Mitrione
Travis Browne by KO
Ross Pearson vs Francisco Trinaldo
Pearson by KO